Friday, March 11, 2011

HP Catalyst Conference

Friday March 11, 2011

After a quick breakfast it was time to head to the ballroom to hear a keynote speech from Sunil Dutt, HP VP and general manager PSG India. He enlightened us with facts about India and it's educational system.

(Gentleman on the right is a Google representative.)

Here are a few that stood out to me:

1) India is the world's largest democracy - 1.15 Billion people
2) It has 22 languages with 1600 dialects
3) 70% of India's population is rural
4) They are striving to democratize and modernize their educational system.
5) One interesting quote was, " We are trying to exercize our minds towards innovation, not just securing jobs."
6) 7% of students graduate and head to higher education.
7) 42% of kids drop out by class 5.
8) Although India leads the world with 690,000 science and math graduates annually, it is still a very small number relative to their population. (USA has 420,000/year)
9) Teacher absence is a major problem in the schools of India as well as teacher quality and staff development.

HP Technology might help all of the above by helping engage kids, track school data (like achievement, school lunch info, teacher absenteeism etc.) meet special needs students and provide curricula and professional development.

One quote that resonated was.... "Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.
Abraham Flexner.

That was the first hour...whew!

We then had an opportunity to listen to a keynote panel from several foundation leader about "Visions of Education Innovation".

Speaker 1- Here we heard that 50% of level 5 students can;t read their tests well and 40% can't do simple division problems. School certification needs a makeover to improve education. Tech can help to do this by being a disruptive force. The speaker suggested that similarly to the way people in India deal with traffic (which btw is amazing), they will find their way!

Speaker 2- 95% of kids are enrolled in school. Engineers from India often need "repair" before working. If student achieve rises 1/2 standard deviation it result in .87% GDP rise. Not insignificant! A recent report suggested that the schools need to track achievement better and improve teacher staff development, but how does this happen with so many culture and languages? This is where cell phones, the Inernet and cloud computing might help.

Speaker 3- There is low teacher capacity leading to low learning outcomes. There is inadequate infrastructure and not enough disadvantaged kids are participating. Out of 100 kids, 48 graduate and 11 head to higher ed. To improve education instructional radio, ed videos, video conferencing technology and multimedia kits are helping.

We were then introduced to the different catalyst grant groups and their special focuses. It was an amazing diversity of projects that you can see at the HP Catalyst grant web site.

Next our group of principal investigators from the Global Collaboratory group met for two hours in order to look for connections between our projects. It was a rigorous and challenging conversation and planning session which resulted in an amazing vision of a possible collaboration scheme. The big question is ow does a middle school water quality project relate to high speed computing in Russia or cloud computing in Egypt or Virtualization in Washington State? Whew... exhausting.

Then we had cloud computing and it's potential demonstrated for us in our next panel. Using free open source code three projects were described and how they create specific computing structures to support educational project that effect learning.

Dinner and then we had a special visit from the Agastya International foundation which runs mobile science buses to teach kids throughout India! there are 55 roving science vehicles enlightening kids and turning them on to hands-on science. The speech by the foundation head, Ramji Raghavan, was moving as he retold his story of moving from wall street banker to the development of this non-profit and his need to reach children and spark their curiosity for science.

It was an tiring and long day that challenged all intellectually, emotionally and physically but we left charged up with the potential our projects could have to improve global education.

Respetfully Submitted.

Jim Forde and Bryan Olkowski


  1. Wow! To be completely honest, I had no idea about the statistics of India's Education System. It is fasinating to learn how they are changing their system, ie technology! You mentioned that you met to find connections between each other's projects...what were our connections?

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